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May 19, 2008

Mahathir warns project could force Malays from key state

Wealthy Singaporean investors may force ethnic Malays from a Malaysian state being touted as a key economic zone, former premier Mahathir Mohamad has warned.

Malaysia launched an ambitious project in 2006 to transform the idyllic southern Johor state into a metropolis to woo foreign investment and compete with neighbouring Singapore for manufacturing and logistics businesses, reported AFP.

Mahathir said the 17.7 billion-ringgit (4.8 billion-dollar) Iskandar Malaysia project was aimed at luring Singaporean investors and could see Malays forced out.

"After the land is sold, the Malays will be driven to live at the edge of the forest and even in the forest itself," Mahathir said in a weekend speech in Johor, the Star newspaper reported.

"In the end, the area in Iskandar Malaysia will be filled with Singaporeans and populated with only 15 percent Malays."

Mahathir has been a vocal critic of Malaysia's government since Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi aborted some of his projects, including a plan to build a bridge linking Johor and Singapore.

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